It's traditional in our household to put a sixpence into the Christmas Pudding mixture (having warned unwary guests first!). It is supposed to bring wealth and good luck to whoever finds it on their plate on Christmas Day. We also get each member of the family to take a turn at stirring the mixture. As they do, they can each make a wish.
Christmas puddings are traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles. Brandy is poured on the pudding and lit to form a halo of flames which represents Christ's passion. The sprig of holly on top represents the crown of thorns, as well as symbolising protection against evil.
There is a legend about how the Christmas Pudding came about. One Christmas Eve an English king found himself deep in a forest with only a little food for his journey. He knocked on the door of a wood man's cottage and asked for food and shelter. The occupant had few provisions, so the king’s servant mixed together all the food the woodsman would spare with the small amount the king had left. The result was a sticky mixture of chopped suet, flour, eggs, apples, dried plums, ale, sugar and brandy. This mixture was boiled in a cloth and was the first Christmas Pudding.
Putting charms in your Pudding dates back to the 16th century but in Victorian times silver charms were popular and they take the form of a boot, bell, wishbone, thimble, ring, button and horseshoe. The boot was for travel, the ring for an impending marriage, the wishbone for the granting of a wish, the thimble was seen as bad luck predicting spinsterhood whilst the bachelor's button was lucky for a man.